Wild edible plants surround our Peaceful Forest Homestead! That fact amazes me every year. There are so many plants growing in the forest around us that I couldn’t begin to know them all. I carry my worn copy of A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guides) with me, when I want to learn about a plant I have seen. I usually bring back one of the plants, the stalk, the flower or berry and some leaves. I will go online and check more than one website that has actual photographs of this plant. I study it carefully, before I decide to indulge in a taste. One taste of a poisonous plant could be your last! I am NOT kidding!
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t sample the wild edible plants growing near you. I like the fact that I can pick them fresh all season, and not have to dry or can them. When the season is done, we go on to other food. These plants will be back in our diet next year. Eating food in that way means that we never get tired of them. We can eat dandelion greens all spring and summer, and then when they are gone, I can dream about eating them again next spring. Berries are abundant in the forests of NY. I think this must be the way early settlers got a supply of fruit for their families. Not only do we have berries to harvest, but plenty of wild apple trees and grapes.
When we first moved here, I didn’t know the first thing about wild edible plants. I learned fast. Our house had the woods growing right up to the back door. What was growing in that area? Wild edible plants of course! Mainly blackberries. Everywhere you could see around our house was blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, Hawthorne berries, choke cherries, raspberries and at least a dozen, old heirloom apple trees. I have the idea that whoever first built this house in 1850, may have planted those old apple trees. He built a wood bin in the root cellar that is attached to the ceiling with no legs to the floor. I think they stored the apples that they harvested from the trees here in that bin. It is one of my favorite things about this house. I made so many berry cobblers and apple crisps and applesauce those first few years. Eventually we had to clear those areas for the garden and yard. Then the area to build our barn and paddock had to be cleared too. It didn’t matter, we still have enough.
If you plan right, you can make use of the wild edible plants while they are at their peak. I admit to canning and drying many of them, though I don’t really have to. Making juice from the fruits is something I have done and still do quite often. One year you might get a huge harvest and the next two, hardly anything. I have to fight the birds and bees every year for the berries and grapes. They feed off the sweet fruits and they harvest them before they are ready. That is why they usually beat me to it. It is a good way to add to your food supply, since these foods are free, except for the work of picking and cleaning them (maybe fighting the bees too). Do you have any edible wild foods on your homestead? What do you do with them?
Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
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